Evo-Info 4 addendum

Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, by Robert J. Marks II, the “Charles Darwin of Intelligent Design”; William A. Dembski, the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”; and Winston Ewert, the “Charles Ingram of Active Information.” World Scientific, 332 pages.
Classification: Engineering mathematics. Engineering analysis. (TA347)
Subjects: Evolutionary computation. Information technology–Mathematics.

In “Evo-Info 4: Non-Conservation of Algorithmic Specified Complexity,” I neglected to explain that algorithmic mutual information is essentially a special case of algorithmic specified complexity. This leads immediately to two important points:

  1. Marks et al. claim that algorithmic specified complexity is a measure of meaning. If this is so, then algorithmic mutual information is also a measure of meaning. Yet no one working in the field of information theory has ever regarded it as such. Thus Marks et al. bear the burden of explaining how they have gotten the interpretation of algorithmic mutual information right, and how everyone else has gotten it wrong.
  2. It should not come as a shock that the “law of information conservation (nongrowth)” for algorithmic mutual information, a special case of algorithmic specified complexity, does not hold for algorithmic specified complexity in general.

My formal demonstration of unbounded growth of algorithmic specified complexity (ASC) in data processing also serves to counter the notion that ASC is a measure of meaning. I did not explain this in Evo-Info 4, and will do so here, suppressing as much mathematical detail as I can. You need to know that a binary string is a finite sequence of 0s and 1s, and that the empty (length-zero) string is denoted \lambda. The particular data processing that I considered was erasure: on input of any binary string x, the output \mathtt{erased}(x) is the empty string. I chose erasure because it rather obviously does not make data more meaningful. However, part of the definition of ASC is an assignment of probabilities to all binary strings. The ASC of a binary string is infinite if and only if its probability is zero. If the empty string is assigned probability zero, and all other binary strings are assigned probabilities greater than zero, then the erasure of a nonempty binary string results in an infinite increase in ASC. In simplified notation, the growth in ASC is

    \[A(\mathtt{erased}(x)) - A(x) = \underbrace{A(\lambda)}_\text{infinite} - \underbrace{A(x)}_\text{finite} = \infty\]

for all nonempty binary strings x. Thus Marks et al. are telling us that erasure of data can produce an infinite increase in meaning.

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Number of Unique Commentators

For The Panda’s Thumb’s After the Bar Closes thread on Uncommon Descent, I created a graph of the number of unique commentators at UD:

Here, for each day from Apr 2005 until Nov 2019, I gave the number of different people who commented at UD at least once during the previous 365 days. The colors indicate the number of contributions such a commentator has made over this period of time.

Obviously, the same can be done for “The Skeptical Zone”:



The REAL “Problem of Evil”

[moderator’s note: Nonlin.org produced this at about the same time as his “Miracles” post. I delayed this, so that they could be discussed one at a time. I’m now publishing this one.]

[a note to nonlin – if all of your post is one block, it is hard to add a “more” break. Maybe a short introductory sentence as a first block would make that easier]

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Behe and Co. in Canada

This past Friday, I bumped into Dr. Michael Behe, and again on Saturday, along with Drs. Brian Miller (DI), Research Coordinator CSC, and Robert Larmer (UNB), currently President of the Canadian Society of (Evangelical) Christian Philosophers. Venue: local apologetics conference (https://www.diganddelve.ca/). The topic of the event “Science vs. Atheism: Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?” makes it relevant here at TSZ, where there are more atheists & agnostics among ‘skeptics’ than average.

On the positive side, I would encourage folks who visit this site to go to such events for learning/teaching purposes. Whether for the ID speakers or not; good conversations are available among people honestly wrestling with and questioning the relationship between science, philosophy and theology/worldview, including on issues related to evolution, creation, and intelligence in the universe or on Earth. Don’t go to such events expecting miracles for your personal worldview in conversation with others, credibility in scientific publications or in the classroom, if you are using ‘science’ as a worldview weapon against ‘religion’ or ‘theology’. That argument just won’t fly anymore and the Discovery Institute, to their credit, has played a role, of whatever size may still be difficult to tell, in making this shift happen.

A question arises: what would be the first question you would ask or thing you would say to Michael Behe if you bumped into him on the street?

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The New Atheism: A Failed Hamartiology

It is sometimes useful to remember that The Skeptical Zone was started in the naive assumption that intelligent people of good will could discuss important issues without undue rancor. (Ha ha ha!! Have you even seen the Internet!)

Anyway, I bring to your attention a rather interesting blog post (blogs? who blogs anymore?) by Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex: ” New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed“. Alexander gives us some interesting data (frequency of search terms taken from Google and other sites) that document a flagging interest in the “religion vs atheism” debates of the early 2000s.

Here are two (I think) revealing quotes that contextualize the decline of New Atheism in terms of changes in Internet culture:

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These days researchers are obsessed with making models as an aid to understanding reality. But there is a danger here in that in concentrating on the models the actual living world around us is lost sight of. And the same can be said regarding the metaphors that are in frequent use. How true to reality is the mind picture evoked by the metaphor.

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Did Richard Feynman say methodological naturalism would fail in matters of science?

YES! If I understand him correctly!

Methodological Naturalism(MN) on TSZ and everywhere comes up in origin matters all the time. Are present mechanisms/machinery for the universe always been acting as is and so negates the involvement of a creator who would need to interfere and did?

all biology and geology and cosmology researchers want common laws to be fixed in the universe and any creationism is frustrated right out of the gate. for fun and profit i recently watched the Richard Feynman lectures on physics. He is still remembered by older people as a important scientist . i’m not sure his accomplishments back this up and instead its a old prejudice about post war physics mattering greatly. possibly he just tied up some loose ends. however his true science status is not the point. The point is that the science “community’ know his name and care what he thinks about science generally. On youtube on the fifth lecture Character of physical law(The distinction of past and future) starting at 16:40-22:10 minutes on it HE brings up about geology, history, cosmology as being different then physics. He complains this is a error. physics must of evolved TOO. The present laws of physics must of been different then the past ones while it was evolving. The present is not a accurate portrayal of the past based on this idea. THE universe/world was MORE organized in the past. Outside the province of present physic laws. On another youtube show called “Take the world from another point of view” by same author. on the third video at 9:00 he says the same thing. in short m==MN does not work with present systems because they radically must of evolved from a more organized past system. SO boundaries based on present laws of nature would fail to accurately explain things. this is important idea for creationism in so much.In biology or geology or cosmology its reasonable to imagine , as options, that present laws, whether on creation week, post fall, post flood, could easily be different then present laws in these subjects. unless someone says Mr Feynman is wrong!!


Rejected for ideology only

A TSZ member recently made this claim:

Sanford’s recent paper with Cordova was rejected by multiple venues for bogus reasons. Everyone agreed the science is solid, but made up reasons why the paper should not be accepted.

And then is asked:

Name the venues and give their reasons for the rejection. 

I’ve actually been asking this for literally years over at UD, although not lately. The claim that papers are rejected not because of the science but instead because of some other reason is often made. But I’ve never seen any actual evidence of this. Has anyone?

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On Ideology. Between Secular & Secularism – what’s the similarity, difference or overlap?

Adding to that a 2nd question: If a person seeks ‘secularization’ (cf. laïcisation), i.e. ‘more secularity’ in their life and in the lives of those around them, in their hometown and in the nation in which they live, and even globally, does that qualify for the operational term ‘secularist’? In this sense, is ‘secularism’ the proper term for the ideology that such a person is promoting?

One might think it a polite necessity for certain voices to avoid all contact, and any proper and timely discussion of ideology, when addressing these two terms – secular & secularism – semantically, philosophically & especially ‘skeptically’. Some people of course just don’t make a priority focus on ideology, as Paul Nelson recently revealed here (re: ideological MNism, while avoiding ideological IDism), saying “‘Ideology’ is fine with me as a descriptive noun,” but is “[n]ot one of my lexical habits”. Even though Nelson is certainly not representative of TSZ voices, it might make a person wonder if there is a healthy skepticism at TSZ about conflating the terms ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, since it has also proven difficult here to differentiate them, just as it has at Peaceful Science. For others, the notion that ‘secular’ is now broadly considered as a condition, while ‘secularism’ counts as an ideology, isn’t all that difficult to acknowledge and accept.

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Categorization and measurement

In a recent comment, BruceS suggested that I do an OP on categorization and measurement, so here it is. I’ll try to keep this short, but later extend it with posts in the thread. If my post in the thread begins with a bold title, then it is intended to extend the OP. And I may then add a link, if I can figure out this blocks editor.

I’ll start with a link to a paper by Stevan Harnad (this blocks editor is annoying).

Cognition is categorization

Harnad’s paper is not quite how I am looking at it, but it gives a good introduction to the idea.

Red, blue or green? That’s a question about categorizing by color. We also categorize by size. Measurement is just a mathematical way of categorizing by length or by voltage or by pressure — by whatever we are measuring.

We categorize as a way of getting information. Within science, information is often acquired by measuring, which is a type of categorizing. I can get information with a digital camera. The digital camera, in effect, categorizes the world into pixel sized chunks and provides data for each of those.

What is categorization?

Categorization just means dividing up into parts. We divide up in accordance with features. Harnad discusses this in an appendix near the end of the linked paper.

There’s an alternative view of categorization, suggested by Eleanor Rosch, where categorization amounts to grouping things in accordance with their similarity to some sort of prototype or family resemblance. Harnad looks at that in the appendix, and he does not agree with Rosch. I concur with Harnad on that.

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Newman vs. Locke on Assent

Greetings from Japan! For those who may have been wondering, super-typhoon Hagibis caused no damage to my home, and my family is safe and sound. Around Japan, however, over 430,000 households are currently without electricity, including 148,000 in my prefecture. But tomorrow is another day, and Japan is an amazingly resilient country. People who’d like to know more are welcome to check out this Website.

Today’s post relates to an excellent one-hour movie on John Henry Newman (1801-1890), the Catholic Church’s newest saint (his canonization ceremony is on Sunday, October 13). The movie was created by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the Catholic ministerial organization Word on Fire. The movie, titled St. John Henry Newman: The Convert, may be viewed online here, but only until October 31. It is very professionally put together: the brilliant cinematography, combined with the uplifting music and Bishop Barron’s erudite narration, makes for thoroughly enjoyable viewing. The first half-hour deals with Newman’s life. at 30:54, Bishop Barron discusses Newman’s classic work, The Development of Christian Doctrine, elucidating its insights with limpid clarity in a segment which is well worth watching. At 40:00, the discussion switches to another work of Newman’s: The Idea of a University.

It has been a long time since my last post on this site. One reason for that is that I’ve been proofreading a forthcoming book (not by me), about which I shall say no more for now. Another reason is that I’ve been planning a talk which I hope to put up on Youtube next year. This is something I’ve never done before, so any technical, logistical and promotional advice would be greatly appreciated.

But the most interesting part for visitors to The Skeptical Zone, begins at 47:15, and relates to Newman’s masterpiece, The Grammar of Assent. In this work, Newman criticized the fixation philosophers have with the idea of certitude. Certitude, he argued, is the wrong starting point; the right starting point is assent. Bishop Barron, in his commentary, carefully explains the distinction Newman drew between the notional assent we give to abstract propositions (the example Barron gives is the proposition that slavery is wrong), and the real assent we give to concrete things (for example, that the reality of slavery, which I see here before me, is evil). Real assent affects the way we act and behave. Newman maintained that the ground of real assent in matters of religion is conscience, which he defined as “a certain keen sensibility, pleasant or painful … attendant on certain of our actions, which in consequence we call right or wrong”. Newman was struck by the fact that conscience is often likened to a voice. Through it we know that we please or offend a Person by our acts – in Newman’s words, “a Judge, holy, just, powerful, all-seeing.” The next segment, starting at 51:32 and lasting about four minutes, is the subject of this post: it relates to the assent which we give to a proposition. From here on, I’ll quote Bishop Barron’s own words, which I have transcribed below.

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Circularity in Eric Holloway’s proof

In a recent thread, commenter Eric Holloway links to an article in which he claims to have proven that halting oracles are logically possible.

The one-page article can be found here:

The Logical Possibility of Halting Oracles

I’ve taken a look at the article, and the proof contains a blatant circularity. That is, it assumes that halting oracles are possible in order to demonstrate that they are possible.

Eric’s proof depends on the construction of an infinite table (which he calls an ‘index’, for some reason) containing an entry for every possible finite Turing machine. The entry includes a specification of the machine in question and a “halting status” that indicates whether the machine halts or runs forever.

Another machine (the “search machine”) is set up that can search through the infinite table to find any particular finite state machine. If it finds a match, it returns the associated halting status. The search machine together with the infinite table thus constitute a halting oracle, according to Eric.

The problem is simple: To populate the infinite table, you need to know the halting status of each finite machine, and to get the halting status, you need a halting oracle. Eric thus assumes the logical possibility of a halting oracle in order to prove the logic possibility of a halting oracle.

It’s plainly circular.

There are additional problems with the article that we can discuss in the comment thread.


Why this creationist flocking likes this 2019 evolution video!

on another blog called pandas Thumb Joe Felsenstein directed readers to the 2019 evolution videos. i canned them, watch numerous summeries, and a few whole programs.

Added by moderator: This appears to be the Panda’s Thumb post that is being referenced. The videos appear to be HERE.

The only one i gave thumbs up to was by a dude called Bowen. It was called adaptative radiations. What the flock is going on?

I really like this as a creationist. He talks about flocks of specification that turns up everywhere now in the sees. they find, like in the cichlid fishes of africa, clusters/flocking of dozens of species from a parent one.

This is not what evolutionists should expect and Bowen suggests there must be some NEW evolutionary rule guiding this. He finds it everywhere.

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Does Paul Nelson really teach both ‘design theory’ & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory?

He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.

Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.

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The Demise of Intelligent Design

At last?

Back in 2007, I predicted that the idea of “Intelligent Design” would soon fade into obscurity. I wrote:

My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent* was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.

*August, 2005

I was wrong. Whilst the interest in “Intelligent Design” (ID) as a fruitful line of scientific enquiry has declined from the heady days of 2005 (or perhaps was never really there) there remain diehard enthusiasts who maintain the claim that ID has merit and is simply being held back by the dark forces of scientism. William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert. In 2017 (with Dembski as a co-author) they published Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, which was heralded as a new development in the ID blogosphere. However, the claim that this represents progress has been met with scepticism.

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Is cancer a genetic or metabolic disease?

The prevailing paradigm is that cancer is a genetic disease caused by somatic mutations occurring in the course of cell division. However, it has been know for many years, ever since Otto Warburg’s effect has been discovered, that cancer cells favor a less efficient metabolism via glycolysis rather than the much more efficient oxidative phosphorylation pathway even in the presence of sufficient oxygen.

The alternative theory to somatic mutations as the culprit of cancer is that most cancers are metabolic diseases caused by dysfunctional mitochondria and mutations occurring in nucleus are the effect of metabolic instability of the cell. It follows that cell machineries in charge of normal cell growth suffer mutations leading to proliferation rather than the other way around.

The following experimental evidence points to conclusions that the many genetic mutations associated with cancers (over 11.000 mutations have been associated with colon cancer alone) have almost no effect on cancer as long as fully functional mitochondria (s) are present in the cell…

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S. Joshua Swamidass and Social Darwinism – a match made on Earth, not in Heaven

Over at Peaceful Science, Joshua Swamidass has made another strange and unsubstantiated claim. He has attempted to speak again on behalf of (all) ‘scientists,’ as is his linguistic tendency, yet in this case about ‘social Darwinism’:

Social Darwinism was a thing that is legitimately connected to the holocaust [sic]. However, scientists today reject Social Darwinism. Even atheists should thank God for this.” https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-and-social-darwinism/6873/2

It’s a bit saucy, perhaps all well & good to suggest that atheists should thank God for something, anything. Yet one of the most active living and agitating ideological evolutionists and one of his co-authors are actually trying to get people to accept ‘Social Darwinism’. https://evolution-institute.org/truth-and-reconciliation-for-social-darwinism/ How does Joshua deal with this apparent blindspot in his approach?

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Evolution does not select for veridical perception

The title is from a blog post by Brian Leiter. Leiter links to an article in the LA Review of books: Imitation and Extinction: The Case Against Reality. The article is written by Donald Hoffman.

We have discussed the general topic before, in several threads. So maybe this is a good time to revisit the topic.

Hoffman asks: “I see a green pear. Does the shape and color that I experience match the true shape and color of the real pear?”

My take is that there is no such thing as the “true shape and color of the pear.”

It is a common presumption, that there is an external standard of truth. Here, I mean “external to humans”. Truth is presumed to come from somewhere else. And our perceptual systems evolved to present us with what is true.

As I see it, this is backwards. Yes, our perceptions are mostly true. But this is not because perception is based on truth. Rather, it is because our human ideas of truth are based on what we perceive.

Open for discussion.